Many Everton supporters on the Grand Old Team forum have been discussing whether or not Michael Keane is ready to lead the Blues’ backline next season, now that captain Phil Jagielka has left the club.
The Toffees released Jagielka earlier this month having opted against handing the 36-year-old a new contract with his current deal due to expire on June 30, at which point we will be left with just two out-and-out senior centre-halves in Keane and Yerry Mina.
Academy graduates Matthew Pennington and Mason Holgate will also be on the club’s books next term, but 24-year-old Pennington – who spent the recent campaign on loan in the Championship with Ipswich Town – has been linked with a return to the second tier with Stoke City, while Wigan Athletic and Derby County have also sounded out a move.
As for Holgate, he, too, spent parts of the recent campaign on loan in the Championship, but his time with West Bromwich Albion was more often spent on the right of the Baggies’ defence, rather than in the centre where Marco Silva had utilised his services for his first five Premier League games in charge of the club.
If the boss shares the same concerns some Everton fans have voiced in £27million-rated Keane’s ability to take command of his defensive colleagues, then Director of Football Marcel Brands will have to up his game in the transfer market to sign another centre-back who will be able to do the job.
Chelsea’s Kurt Zouma has been linked with a return to Goodison Park following his one-season loan here last term, with talks reportedly opening between the Toffees and Pensioners’ boards. Jason Burt, a reporter for The Telegraph, also understands that the Everton hierarchy are hopeful that the French ace can be the next man to put pen to paper on a contract at Goodison following Andre Gomes’ £22million switch from FC Barcelona.
Zouma enjoyed a profitable spell while on loan here last season, as he featured in 32 of our Premier League games – 29 of which were from the starting XI – while averaging an 82% tackle success rate, and 1.9 interceptions and 4.1 clearances per ninety minutes.
Keane, on the other hand, started each of his 33 top-flight appearances, while averaging a 75% tackle success rate, and 1.3 interceptions and 5.5 clearances per ninety minutes.
Here’s what these Everton fans have to say on the 26-year-old England international…
“If he turns out to be half the defender Jags was in his prime, he’ll be some player.” – RochdaleBlue (June 25, 19:41)
“He just strikes me as a player who gets the club, and similar to Jags is underrated by some of our fans, a potential captain.” – Tonka1878 (June 25, 21:18)
“Nowhere near [a perfect replacement for Jags]. But opinions like.” – Kenada_Blue (June 25, 22:59)
“Really [you think he’ll be a big player for us next season]? More down to his mentality, he crumbles at any pressure.” – Kenada_Blue (June 25, 23:01)
“Maybe that first season was down to them, he started well then went off like they all did. Last season was much, much better.” – Flibbyflob (June 25, 23:03)
“I can’t remember a game where he was a stand out, and you still worry when anyone plays a long ball or has pace.
“If we’re talking about stepping up a level, he’s definitely an “adequate” squad player. Say…peak Jags/[Joleon] Lescott/[Sylvain] Distin, he’d be a decent back up for example.” – Kenada_Blue (June 25, 23:18)
“Some short memories of last season knocking around where Keane’s concerned. He ended the season well, but was no better than average for 3/4 of it, with some dreadful games in there too. He was definitely better than the season before, but it was only the last half dozen games I’d say he was actually good.” – JimmyK (June 25, 23:22)
“He was one of our best players this season. People would pay through the nose for Zouma, but there wasn’t much separating them at all.
“He might not be the best around, but for now, he’s a very solid option and has proved his worth.” – Deco (June 25, 23:41)